Hard Boiled 300

Starting from Poole

Look, entering this is not the best idea you have ever had. You have read Past Masters? These are well respected people; outstanding in their fields. If they say it's a toughie be assured it is!

OK lets discuss this rationally.

First there is Cranborne Chase then the Ebble and Wylye Valleys. Sadly, if 2am start, this is the night leg and although the shadows shape and mould themselves into visions, atmosphere lays thick among the primordial mists that wrap the traveller with cold lifeless cloying fingers of wet. Somewhere on Salisbury Plain and dawn breaks the nights cryptal grip. Ancient woodland still clings to the Polden Hills from which we launch out over the Somerset levels. The Axe valley leads us gently to the North Dorset Downs, towards the finish in Poole.

Second there is the pain. It is best to avoid it wherever you can. The Hard Boiled 300 is a test of both rider and machine. There is 4,280 meters of climbing averaging 14.25 m/km. That's average (statisticians would say mean); one stage has 11.06 m/km but one has 23.35m/km. The ill-prepared will suffer horrendously.

The pain and suffering can be avoided. Don't enter. But if you must, and there are many who must, the key to minimalising all of the pain and suffering is preparation.

Thoroughly prepare by reading the routesheet in conjunction with the maps and be sure to schedule your ride according to the terrain.

That's right, schedule. You are starting at 2am when your body has accepted all the outward signs of darkness, coolness, inactivity and quiet as it's cue to shut up shop for the night. Physically, the sugar levels have dropped and the metabolism has slowed. Thought has slowed and reactions are less sharp. In short you are ready for bed. Normaly. However you are not going to let your body rest; oh no. You are going to demand massive exertion that could last for the next 20hrs. You owe it to yourself to take time to prepare.

Study the maps; note the black arrows; memorise the tricky bits. Be aware of the times of sunrise and sunset; and the phase of the moon. Train stations and Youth Hostels and CTC B&Bs: note them and use them if you feel you can't go on. Tiredness, dehydration and undernourishment do not make good cycling companions. Plan for your failure too!

Be honest; is your health up to it?

Remember: since 1987 868 brevets have been awarded to 392 riders (21 ladies).

And now you want to see if it really lives up to the hype. So be it.

You see it as a challenge, a substitute for the antics of your Viking forbears. Perhaps. Who knows?

Audax riding is outside understanding; to ride, to participate, be immersed, take experience, learn, be enlightened.

Route outline.